Brainiac: Science Abuse

Brainiac: Science Abuse (often shortened to simply Brainiac) is a British entertainment TV show with a science motif. Numerous experiments are carried out in each show, often looking into whether common conceptions are true (such as if it's possible to run over a pool of custard) or just for the sake of blowing something up. However the experiments cannot be claimed to be rigorous investigations, with sometimes little or no experimental techniques, scientific method or even forged results and the background science itself is often only lightly touched upon..

The show centralises along the three main cores of science for the key stages in British education including chemistry, physics and to a lesser extent, biology. People who examine and test the experiments on the show are referred to as "Brainiacs", and each episode would finish with the destruction of a caravan.

It is made by Granada Productions and is broadcast in the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland on Sky Digital. It is also shown in the United States (on G4TV), New Zealand (TV2), Australia (The Comedy Channel and Seven HD), Thailand (True Visions), Israel (Channel 8/ערוץ 8), Germany (DMAX), Belgium (JIM), The Netherlands( Veronica and Discovery Channel, Greece (Skai TV), Finland (Nelonen) and in several European countries, Canada and South Africa on Discovery Channel. It was also shown in Singapore on MediaCorp TV's Arts Central.

The original presenters were Richard Hammond and Jon Tickle. In the second series, Charlotte Hudson joined Hammond and Tickle to bring the total number of hosts up to 3. Hammond left after the fourth series, and was replaced by Vic Reeves. The show's fifth series first aired on May 8, 2007 and the sixth series premiered on January 13, 2008.

Show ratings

The programme was a huge ratings success for Sky and became one of the channel's flagship programmes. Recently though ratings have fallen but it remains a firm favourite amongst Sky viewers. A sister programme, Brainiac: History Abuse, presented by Charlotte Hudson, began on Sky One on 1 June 2004, and a live version, Brainiac's Test Tube Baby, was broadcast alongside the fourth series.The 4th series was shown in 2006.


Brainiac has many popular songs and pieces of music played in every episode including hits by Britney Spears, C & C Music Factory, Elton John, and many others. Some songs are themes of various recurring segments such as There's No One Quite like Grandma sung by the St Winifred's School Choir for the Granny Brainiac segments in Series 3

The segment "I Can Do Science, Me" uses the track "I Am A Scientist" by the Dandy Warhols.

The Titles Music and many of the Incidental tracks used in the show were composed by Grant Buckerfield (

The "I Like Hard Things" segment normally features heavy music such as Linkin Park And Limp Bizkit.


First Series (6x45')

Series 1 of Brainiac hit the British small screen in 2003 on Sky One, a UK subscription-based television channel from the digital satellite broadcaster BSkyB. It featured a wide variety of experiments including testing to see whether a mobile phone would ignite petrol vapours, walking on custard and testing the effects of electric shocks on various Brainiacs.

Second Series (13x45')

The second series premiered on Sky One in 2004. It saw the start of "Brainiac Snooker", in which World Snooker professional Quinten Hann would pot the last six balls on a table (Yellow, Green, Brown, Blue, Pink and Black) into the pocket causing the caravan rigged with a different explosive to explode. It premiered in the US on G4 on 29 August 2005 as part of the Midnight Spank programming block; and is also shown on VIVA in Germany, JIMtv in Belgium, Veronica and Discovery Channel in the Netherlands, Network Ten in Australia, TV2 in New Zealand, and Arts Central in Singapore, Discovery Channel in Scandinavia, Discovery Channel in Romania and Nelonen in Finland. The second series also introduced Charlotte Hudson as a third, but minor, host. It also saw the introduction of what then became long term character "Professor Myang-Li", played by Rachel Grant.

Third Series (8x45')

The third series premiered on Sky One on 25 August 2005. It featured Brainiac Golf (much like Brainiac Snooker, only this time with different salts to colour the explosions), Lad v. Lass, Thermite, Does being electrocuted affect your ability at work (human statue, flair bartending, darts player), Things the instruction manuals don't warn you about, 47 Second Science, Diana Ross and her Chain Reaction, and testing which things break and which things bounce after a ten foot drop. Dr. John P. Kilcoyne, associate dean of the University of Sunderland had a regular slot where he mixed various chemicals to see whether they Fizz or Bang. The third series premiered on G4 as part of the Midnight Spank block in Spring of 2006.

Fourth Series (9x45')

The fourth series premiered on Sky One on 16 July 2006. It introduced Brainiac Darts, where Bobby George threw a perfect set, always finishing on the Double Top which triggered the explosion of a caravan, and a new "I Can Do Science Me" which is set around auditions. There is also a feature called "Things What My Body Does" in which a member of the public is filmed doing something extraordinary with their bodies. The first three were: a woman making a very odd "rumbling" noise with her tongue, a man with his hands together smoothly waving his fingers and another man moving his eyebrows in a "Lively" way. It also introduced a new feature called "Brainiac for a Day" where contestants could bring an item of their choice to blow up. It was set out as a game show with the hosts Dolly Girl and Dolly Boy. The fourth series premiered on G4 as part of the Midnight Spank block in Spring of 2007.

Fifth Series (12x45')

It premiered on 8 May 2007 on Sky One. The production of the series was undertaken by Granada Productions and was simulcast in HD on Sky One HD.

In Series 5 Vic Reeves took over as host from Richard Hammond. This was announced before Hammond's car accident in September 2006. The original production team left the programme at the same time as Hammond. The series retained Brainiac For A Day, Things What My Body Does, and contains new segments like Brainiac V Beast, Dr Kilcoyne with "Fizzle or Flash" and Prof. Myang Lee (Rachel Grant) with steel balls, attempting to "shatter or shunt" various objects. Also, Vic Reeves appeared as the Russian scientist Uri Abusikov, attempting to destroy things with liquid nitrogen.

With Vic now presenting, he introduced the "alternative humour" brand that Vic was famous for in the 1990s with his comedy partner, Bob Mortimer.

Sixth Series (10x45')

Series 6 of Brainiac premiered on 13 Jan 2008 on Sky One. The series sees the return of Vic Reeves as host and Jon Tickle as co-host. Thaila Zucchi made her debut on the series in two items: 'How Hard is Your Thing?' in which she tests the hardness of different objects using thermite and a tonne of bricks dropped from a crane, and 'Shocking Acts' in which she finds out whether variety acts can still perform while receiving electric shocks. Other new segments included 'Gas Bang Wallop' featuring a character called Barry Bernard who destroys things with gas, 'Chemistry Deathmatch' in which regular characters Dr Bunhead and Professor John Kilcoyne go head-to-head to produce the best experiments, 'Custard Dreams' which follows the adventures of a Brainiac who discovers he can walk on custard, and 'Stars in Their Caravans' which sees a variety of UK celebrities trapped in caravans, in a mock game show which results in large explosions. Uri Abusikov changed his chemical from liquid nitrogen to liquid oxygen, but otherwise remained the same.

Brainiac Live!

Brainiac Live! is the name of the live stage tour of Brainiac, touring nationally from March 2008. The official description of the show is as follows:

Brainiac Joe escapes from Brainiac HQ and with your help delves fearlessly into the mysteries of science. It's a breathless ride through the wild world of the weird and wonderful. So book your tickets now and do all of those things on stage that you're too scared to do at home!

The show is presented by Ben Enwright, with Joe Rowntree, Rik Warren, Mark Featherstone, Dean Burne, and Niki Smith as the Brainiacs. Dr. John P. Kilcoyne appears at some performances.

Change of Hosts

Richard Hammond presented until series four, when he quit the show. His growing commitments to Top Gear and his contract with the BBC meant that he was finding it increasingly difficult to fulfil his role as presenter of Brainiac. Vic Reeves was brought in as replacement host shortly after the end of the fourth series and before Richard Hammond's near fatal crash.


The presenters perform unusual 'experiments' or demonstration procedures 'so you don't have to'. The destruction of caravans is a recurring theme in many of the episodes. These experiments are often non-scientific and are undertaken in the interests of entertainment (many involving large explosions) rather than any science. The show does however do a reasonable job of demonstrating some simple concepts of experimental design.

  • Liquid Nitrogen/Liquid Oxygen Time: Vic Reeves does an impression of a Russian scientist named Uri Abusikov, along with his wife Ursula - who is seven feet tall and covered in hair - inserting an object into liquid nitrogen or oxygen to see what happens to it. The character is made as a remarkably similar look-alike to the former leader of USSR Leonid Brezhnev.
  • Attempting to destroy a black box/Safe-cracking, a flight data recorder or safe is subjected to various abuses attempting to destroy it, such as having a group of American Civil War re-enactors open fire with rifles and cannons, dunking it in a vat of acid, and spraying it with napalm and finally succumbing to a rubbish tip compacter used to crush cars.
  • Pub Science - performing experiments in a pub with ordinary items. Invariably this results in the experimenter (Dr Bunhead) being thrown out by security staff and subsequently banned.
  • At Home with Dr Bunhead - household mayhem usually involving some explosive chemical reaction.
  • You Can't Stop Rock 'n' Roll - a boombox is subjected to various forms of violence (such as having a caravan dropped on it, smashed up with various sports bats, shooting it with a dual-pellet shotgun, thrown with a hammer thrower and being burned with a flamethrower) until it ceases to play a tape of the Twisted Sister song of the same name. Not a single note of You Can't Stop Rock 'n' Roll was ever actually played in versions outside of the UK, and only the vocal hook of "You can't stop rock 'n' roll!" is repeated in the in-UK editions of the episode. The tape never survives.
  • Dear Jon: A segment in which members of the public write to Jon Tickle about questions they want answered. eg. Is dog food healthier than fast food?
  • Things, but really slowly: A segment in which simple things are displayed in super slow-motion such as the popping of a water balloon and the ignition of a disposable lighter.
  • How Hard is your thing: A segment in which Thaila Zucchi tests the hardness of various objects. She uses three different methods to test the hardness of each; Impact(Ton of Bricks), Abrasion(Angle Grinder) and Heat Resistance(Thermite)
  • Chemistry Deathmatch: Dr Bunhead and Prof. Kilcoine square off in various contests to see who can create the best type of chemical reaction
  • Cooking with Microwaves: Brainiacs cook up a recipe for disaster by placing miscellaneous items (especially flammable ones) into microwaves, which then explodes
  • Brainiac for a day - a usual person blowing up an object in a randomly selected way
  • Victorian Brainiac
  • Movie Stars Destroying Cars
  • Appliance Abuse
  • Striping Celebs On The Work Bench
  • Things you can run through - Involves a Brainiac running at full speed against a frame containing materials varying every week, to see if he can break through or if he'll bounce off
  • Things what my body does - A video of someone doing something extraordinary with their body
  • Stuff NASA never tried - Vic Reeves shows the efficiency (or not) of the usage of rockets in every task of life
  • I Can Do Science, Me - Charlotte Hudson invites a common person who sent a letter to answer their burning questions.
  • Things That People Do For Money
  • Dr. Bunhead on the Pull - The science's biggest loser goes out to a pub, on the hope that his science can get him a girlfriend.
  • 101 Uses for a Wee (urine)
  • Undercover Brainiac
  • What Weird Things People Do To Attract The Other Sex
  • Things Jon Tickle's body can/can't do.
  • "Tickle's Teasers", supposedly unanswerable questions.
  • Things you can't do while being electrified.
  • Things you can do with Thermite.
  • 47 second science: Tackling life's big questions in bite sized chunks
  • Granny Brainiac: Home spun cures from an old woman that Brainiac calls 'the nation's favourite old dear.'
  • Celebs on Helium - celebrities are invited to take a balloon of helium and say 'Hi, I'm [whoever] and you're watching Brainiac!'
  • Custard Dreams:Walking across (and standing in) a swimming-pool full of custard to demonstrate the properties of a non-Newtonian fluid.
  • Comparing the effects of what would happen (advantages and disadvantages) in certain situations involving two sorts of people, including:
    • Fat v Thin
    • Tall v Short
    • Lad v Lass
    • Brainiac v Beast
    • Brainiac v Toddler
    • Tired v Wired
    • Ugly V Beauty
    • Gays V Lesbians
    • Geeks V Idiots
  • Ad Break Buffers*
    • Will it break or will it bounce? Dropping things from a height and seeing if they will break or bounce.
    • What's this? A sample from an object has been magnified 25-450 times under a microscope and you have to guess what the object is.
    • Will it Fizz or will it Bang
    • Will it Glow or will it Blow
    • Will it Fizzle or will it Flash
    • Will it Float or will it Sink (fruit)

Alkali metal experiment with forged results

An experiment was aimed to illustrate periodic trends in the alkali metal series. The footage included the really violent reactions of metallic sodium and potassium with water, where the hydrogen involved subsequently explodes. It was the intention to show that rubidium and caesium are even more reactive. However, the reaction was not very fast, so the team decided to forge the result: explosives were substituted for the alkali metals. This is clearly visible in the footage, where an "explosives" sign is seen and no exploding cloud of hydrogen above the tub, as would be expected from an alkali metal reaction, is visible. In fact, this result is expected. Heavier alkali metals have a higher atomic mass: even if they have more reactivity per mole, they have less reactivity per mass. They also sink into the water and cool down, when lighter metals float. The fraud was admitted by Brainiac staff. When the experiments were repeated, the original results were reproduced: rubidium and caesium do not explode as violently as the lighter metals.


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